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Meet Adhirath Sikand of Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA) in USC

Today we’d like to introduce you to Adhirath Sikand.

Adhirath, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I moved to United States in 2015 to pursue my PhD in Chemical biology at USC and I am currently working on studying mechanism of mutation incorporation in the DNA of bacteria which render them gain of resistance to antibiotics and can cause creation of superbugs. I am originally from India and worked at University of Alberta, Canada before moving to Los Angeles for my degree.

When I moved to Los Angeles, I wanted to develop a professional network in the city and break out of my introvert shell as well. I was looking for opportunities beyond the academic campus to learn how to network and meet new people when I heard of BCLA from a friend. To develop my professional skills, I decided the best way to do would be to be associate with the organization’s events planning so I interviewed to join the organization. After four years of volunteering at BCLA, I have developed a lot of leadership and networking skills and I was appointed the President of the organization in November 2019. I have been overlooking the operations of the organization since then.

Has it been a smooth road?
As in every organization, there have been ups and downs along the way, but working at BCLA continues to be a great experience. We have always been established at USC and UCLA campuses because our volunteers primarily work at these institutions but recently have been able to host events at LABiomed in Torrance, Amgen at Thousand Oaks, and Studio 55 in Pasadena and Nixon Peabody in Downtown. For our next event we will be heading to HATCH LA in Alhambra. I feel very proud that our organization takes the biggest challenge of Los Angeles head on – the widespread geography.

For long people have overlooked the growing biotech ecosystem of Los Angeles because it is scattered all over. Our aim to connect these different institutions, startup, big biotech and pharmaceutical companies together and foster the growing biotech industry. For very long we have believed that Los Angeles, home to top academic institutions of the country, should and can have a thriving life science and healthcare industry. For the same, we are always on the lookout for new collaborations and partners.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Biotech Connection Los Angeles (BCLA) – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
BCLA is a non-profit organization run by graduate students, postdocs and biotech professionals around LA. Our mission is to inspire, educate and connect emerging scientists and entrepreneurs to grow and diversify biotech in LA. We host networking events, career fairs, symposia, panels and summits each year all over the LA county, with a number of attendees rounding 120+ per event. Since inception in 2014, our organization was grown to have more than 5000 subscribers to our monthly newsletter and host more than 40 events so far.

We are best known for our the diversity in events we host which range from topics like medical devices to food biotechnology and even AI in Healthcare. We have featured various startups in our events like Basepaws and hosted career development workshops for young professionals. We’ve had participation of organizations like Johnson and Johnson JLABS, Amgen, Gilead, Kite Pharma, Beyond Meat, Y combinator and Indiebio to name a few.

As a nonprofit, we have limited resources and fundraise continuously throughout the year and I am very proud that despite the struggle of fundraising all our events are always free for all students and postdocs.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Los Angeles is a very international city which makes me feel right at home. I have been made a lot of personal and professional connections over the past few years and I love that the entire LA community is very welcoming, forward-thinking and proactive is making LA a great place to be. Even the BCLA Team consists of more than 20 very diverse volunteers from countries like India, China, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Russia, Italy, the US, and Canada.

Los Angeles has always be the home of Hollywood and the film industry but as the technology and especially biotechnology industry grows in Los Angeles, I am sure it will also be recognized at a more national and international scale which is currently lacking.

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